(AFP) —Zimbabwean authorities on Friday charged a man with murder after his 14-year-old wife died at a religious shrine last month of complications due to childbirth.
The death of Anna Machaya sparked widespread outrage on social media, drawing condemnation from rights groups and the United Nations.
Machaya’s husband Hatirarami Momberume, 26, was arrested this week and arraigned before a magistrate’s court in Mutare, Zimbabwe’s third-largest city, on Friday.
Momberume was charged with murder for failing to take his wife to hospital when she went into labour pain, despite “realising that there was a real risk or possibility that his conduct… might cause death”, court documents showed.
He was also charged with having sex with a minor and remanded in custody without entering his plea.
Police have been under pressure to act with more than 92,000 people having signed a petition calling for arrests over the case.
Midwives who attended Machaya when she died on July 15 were named in court and are also at risk of arrest.
Machaya’s parents were meanwhile expected before the same magistrate later on Friday, for obstructing the cause of justice.
They are accused of trying to conceal their daughter’s age by handing investigators a birth certificate belonging to Machaya’s 22-year-old cousin.
Marrying before the age of 18 has been illegal since 2016 in Zimbabwe, when the Constitutional Court struck down a section of the Marriage Act.
The age of sexual consent is 16.
But the southern African country is still among the top 20 on the continent where child marriage is most prevalent.
According to the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency, one in three girls are underage when they marry. In comparison, only two per cent of boys get married before they are 18.
The practice is more common in rural areas, and in some regions the rate is as high as one in two.